Hey there 😀
I’m writing these lines from my new place in Weimar but this article is much more about the month before I moved to Thuringia. Around this time last year I was travelling Eastern Europa by train with my interrail ticket, and while I was busy walking through cities and listening to tour guides, I missed a very special part of my life quite a lot: my bike. Cycling is one of the best ways to move, in my opinion, and I’m very happy to spend many hours outside in the nature every week. All of this made me come up with the plan to do my next travel by bike – why not, I thought?! Sure, minimum luggage, always the problem with rain and where should I sleep?
Well, I didn’t know at that point but I was pretty sure to figure something out. After returning back home, I started searching for good routes and thinking about places I wanted to see. All across Europe there are many cycle paths, usually very well signposted along the routes and marked on special cycle maps. Having studied in Ireland and at least seen parts of Northern and Eastern Europe, my travel experience especially lacked some Southern countries. According to this Paris and Lisbon came into my thoughts – this should also be a good region in terms of weather in September, I thought.. not too cold yet but not extremely hot anymore as well. It came in handy that I found a mapped-out track to cycle by bike connecting those two cities including a blog on which the tour was documented. After contacting this blogwriter and exploring the route a bit more, I also found out about the platform warmshowers, where cyclists offer travelling cyclists to stay the night (most of the time you’ll also get a little dinner and a warm shower 😉 ). Additionally, the route went along the Spanish north coast following the Camino del Norte de Santiago which gave me the chance to use the pilgrimage hostels.
The combination of both made me feel pretty comfortable and I started looking for the right gear to fit my bike and all the clothes and necessities I need along the way. There are tons of different bags and systems to carry your whole life on a bike – but since I was only using my racer and I planned on being away for about four weeks, I just wanted to take a minimum of stuff. No sleeping bag, big towels comfy sweaters, large food supplies or similar – just a change set of cycling gear, rain proof jacket, wind vest, helmet, shoes, flipflops, some normal clothing (suitable to wear during numerous occasions: 2 tops, thin trousers, underwear, socks), a travel towel, bath necessities, phone and eReader, a knife, my Garmin, a bottle, a lock, two tubes and tools to fix and change a tube, an bicycle pump – all fit into three small bags. Looking back, it seems impossible but it worked out just fine – I just washed every 3 or 4 days and made it happen.
Transporting the bike was another challenge. Getting to Paris wasn’t too hard since the train from Cologne only takes about 3 hours, but you need to put the bike in a bag. During flights the bike also needs a bag or at least a good cartonage. Luckily, I knew a girl from Lisbon plus I could borrow a light and foldable bicycle bag – so I put the bike apart, into the bag, reassembled it along some canal in Paris and send the bag to Lisbon. About a week later, I got the message that the bag had arrived and was waiting for me to get there as well. – Thank you so much, Thomas and Sofia for lending me the bag and taking it in, during my cycle!
Having dealt with all of these problems, there’s still one major difference from the usual cycling – due to all the luggage the bike is much heavier and cycling for four weeks no matter the weather or the ascend to climb on several days, both aspects require no to go as fast and hard as usual and to be gentle with yourself compared to your normal speed and distance. However it’s a holiday and despite all the strength you need, it’s important to relax as well and make sure you can keep up the power and the motivation for the whole tour.
About six months after I first thought about such a cycling trip, everything was packed and I was ready to take the train to Paris early morning September 5th. Arriving there already by 10am, it took me about two hours to reassemble my bike and around lunch time I could meet my first warmshowers host to leave my luggage at their place: Maelle and her boyfriend. They were really great, despite the very small flat they offered me their sofa and we even cooked dinner together. During the afternoon I explored the French metropole and was sometimes even terrified by the high amount of traffic I was cycling through. The city has quite different places in terms of atmosphere and infrastructure.. I guess, some of you might have seen it yourself.. so before I start trying to put images into words, enjoy some pictures from my Paris tour and see you next time for some more cycle stories as I made my way to Lisbon.